King objects to cost cuts

2019-06-25 15:00
King Goodwill Zwelithini, Ingonyama Trust’s sole trustee.

King Goodwill Zwelithini, Ingonyama Trust’s sole trustee. (File)

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Cost-cutting measures for Thursday’s State of the Province Address (Sopa) put senior officials in the provincial legislature on a collision course with Zulu King Goodwill Zwelithini, who did not take kindly to requests that he reduce the number of his guests.

The province is believed to be saving about R3 million by moving the event from the Royal Agricultural Showgrounds to the legislature.

Reliable sources within the provincial legislature told The Witness that Zwelithini had threatened to pull out of Sopa if officials insisted he scale down the number of his guests.

“The king was furious when told he should cut guests ... After the king had threatened to withdraw from the event, officials apologised and assured him that there won’t be any need for him to reduce the number,” the source said.

In the past, the king — who is usually accompanied by a large contingent of his staff, wives, children and other relatives — was allowed to invite scores of guests to the opening of the provincial legislature where he delivers the main speech.

“The officials had attempted to explain to the king that the legislature and the provincial government were implementing austerity measures and as such he would have to reduce the number of his guests.

“He then said he would make it easier for everyone by not attending the event.

“The officials panicked and tried to do some damage control after realising the political fallout that the situation could cause,” the source said.

Unlike kings in other provinces, Zwelithini enjoys significant support. Last week, new Premier Sihle Zikalala travelled to his palace in Nongoma, northern KZN, to introduce the new provincial cabinet.

Approached for comment, provincial legislature spokesperson Wonder Hlongwa rubbished the claims that Zwelithini had threatened to pull out of the Sopa.

“It is the first time I’m hearing that — what I know is that His Majesty will deliver the provincial legislature opening address on Thursday,” he said.

While Hlongwa conceded that there had been some cost-cutting measures for Sopa, he was not aware if Zwelithini had been affected.

“I don’t have the full details around the cost-cutting measures at the moment, I will have to check with the relevant people,” he said.

The provincial legislature’s decision to move the Sopa from the Royal Showgrounds to the legislature’s premises in the CBD has resulted in the number of guests attending the event being slashed.

“The showgrounds were able to cater for large numbers but the costs associated with having the Sopa there were just too high and given the dwindling resources holding the event there was no longer justifiable,” another source said.

Moving the Sopa to the provincial legislature premises will result in more than R3 million savings for the legislature. Implementation of the government’s austerity measures saw Zikalala having a low-key inauguration ceremony at his official residence in Parkside, Pietermaritzburg, as opposed to the usual massive premier inauguration at the Royal Showgrounds.

Thursday’s KZN legislature opening will be followed by Zikalala’s State of the Province Address, which will also take place at the legislature.

Zwelithini’s spokesperson, Prince Thulani Zulu, could not be reached for comment.

Read more on:    pietermaritzburg  |  king zwelithini
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